With the Six Nations Grand Slam sealed and top spot of the world rankings preserved, Ireland’s next objective is abundantly clear.
The Rugby World Cup has always been beyond reach of Irish arms, but there is every reason to believe this current crop of players can dare to dream.
Head coach Andy Farrell has established an awesome rugby side, which boasts a blend of brawn and brilliance that has proven so troublesome for the world’s best sides of the last 12 months.
Depth is another factor too, Ireland have plenty of it even if concerns remain regarding the back-up options in two or three key positions.
Ireland have a talented, ever-increasing pool of players at their disposal and with 33 places on the plane to France this autumn – two more than 2019 – some big calls are going to be made.
Yes, there are 170 days between now and the hosts’ World Cup opener against Scotland and a lot could change with plenty of club rugby and more Tests to be played.
Nevertheless, fitness permitting, here is an early guess at what Ireland’s trusted 33 could be.
Ireland’s back three has effectively picked itself during the Grand Slam-winning campaign, with Hugo Keenan, James Lowe and Mack Hansen bankers for the World Cup.
Jimmy O’Brien’s versatility – and the fact he has emerged as Keenan’s back-up – should get him a seat on the plane.
The last slot is up for grabs, with Rob Baloucoune, Jordan Larmour, Keith Earls and a potentially fit again Andrew Conway in the mix. If Larmour continues to shine for Leinster it could be him who gets the final nod.
Selection: Hugo Keenan, James Lowe, Mack Hansen, Jimmy O’Brien, Jordan Larmour.
Garry Ringrose is arguably the form outside centre in Europe right now, while Robbie Henshaw returned to good effect against England.
Bundee Aki still has great stock, while Stuart McCloskey has boosted his and should make the cut.
Selection: Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw, Bundee Aki, Stuart McCloskey.
Selection: Johnny Sexton, Ross Byrne, Jack Crowley.
Jamison Gibson-Park will go to France as first-choice barring a major dip in form, while Conor Murray has cemented his role as back-up.
Given the backing Craig Casey has received from Graham Rowntree at Munster, he should fend off competition from Caolin Blade.
Selection: Jamison Gibson-Park, Conor Murray, Craig Casey.
Andrew Porter has nailed down loosehead duties, and veteran Cian Healy – who can play tighthead (and even hooker!) is primed to offer support.
There is cause for debate regarding who joins them, Munster’s Dave Kilcoyne and Jeremy Loughman are in the mix. We figure he will choose the latter having shown real faith in the 27-year-old.
Selection: Andrew Porter, Cian Healy, Jeremy Loughman.
Ireland are spoilt for choice when it comes to hookers. Three of them – Dan Sheehan, Ronan Kelleher and Rob Herring – have played a large role in the Andy Farrell era thus far.
All three look destined to travel barring injury, with Ulster’s Tom Stewart waiting in the wings.
Selection: Dan Sheehan, Ronan Kelleher, Rob Herring.
The order at tighthead is more established than the opposite side of the front row. Tadhg Furlong is a must, with Finlay Bealham and Tom O’Toole doing much to boost their chances since November.
Perhaps the experienced John Ryan can put a spanner in the works when he returns to Munster, but even then he remains an outsider.
Selection: Tadhg Furlong, Finlay Bealham, Tom O’Toole.
Ireland’s established trio of James Ryan, a fit again Tadhg Beirne and Iain Henderson are odds-on for selection.
One would think that Ryan Baird has definitively leapfrogged Joe McCarthy. He has shown more than his younger club mate. His versatility only furthers his case.
Selection: James Ryan, Tadhg Beirne, Iain Henderson, Ryan Baird.
Ireland’s back row should boast a blend of Leinster and Munster, with Caelan Doris, Josh van der Flier and Peter O’Mahony tying down that the starting shirts.
Jack Conan has all but assured his place, while Gavin Coombes will be hopeful although Andy Farrell might seek more depth at openside flanker. Still, Coombes can bring real physicality while O’Mahony has performed well in the number seven shirt in the past.
Selection: Caelan Doris, Josh van der Flier, Peter O’Mahony, Jack Conan, Gavin Coombes.